Kevin Harvick has called for more consistent rulings from NASCAR on clashes between drivers, after being fined and placed on probation following his post-race altercation with Kyle Busch at Darlington.
The Richard Childress Racing driver was fined $25,000 and placed on probation until June 15, as was his Joe Gibbs Racing rival, after Harvick tried to retaliate physically with Busch for an incident they had in the final laps of last Saturday's Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington.
Harvick's attack was avoided by Busch, who drove away – pushing his rival's car out of the way and against the pit wall – when Harvick had tried to punch him through the driver's side window.
Speaking on Friday at Darlington, Harvick did not dispute the reason for his penalties but said after hearing from NASCAR on Thursday at Dover what his probation period means, he does not completely understand the policy. Since 2010 NASCAR has allowed drivers to police themselves more, being more flexible in its rulings with on-track incidents. But Harvick said it felt to him that the process was unclear.
"I think when you look at the 'boys have at it' theme, it's obviously changing as we go through the process," said Harvick. "I think when you go back and you look at the very first major incident that you saw on the racetrack, I guess it would be Carl [Edwards] and [Brad] Keselowski in Atlanta [in 2010] and you saw the car go upside down.
"Carl was parked for hooking him in the right rear quarter panel and then it happened again and you see a lot of people coming out of the pits and retaliating and sometimes it's a one-lap penalty and sometimes you are parked for the race and sometimes you look at the Keselowski and [Denny] Hamlin [Nationwide Series incident] at Homestead so there's a lot of different things happening.
"I understand that it's evolving but from a driver's standpoint you don't really 100 percent understand how it works. Last week they stressed a lot to me that the penalties were for pit road violations after the race and the jeopardy that it put everybody in after the race and I understand that part.
"Yesterday [Thursday] it was all about being on probation and on the racetrack. So just a little bit confused about that. Nobody really had any clarification as to what we were supposed to do and not supposed to do other than we are on probation for four weeks and now it's a penalty on the racetrack."
Harvick stressed he would like officials to draw a clear line so that drivers know exactly what they face for their actions.
"Well, there just has to be consistency," said Harvick. "I can race either way. We can flip each other over. I don't mind wrecking. I don't mind getting wrecked. I don't mind eye for an eye. I don't mind any of that – but just tell me what the rules are. Explain to me what the penalty is if you are going to hook somebody in the middle of the straightaway, if you are going to spin them out, if you are going to retaliate, what is the penalty? Tell me what the penalty is. A consistent answer."
Harvick said his probation period will obviously impact on the way he races for the next four weeks. NASCAR's probation will cover all National series event races as well as the non-points All-Star race, which takes place next week at Charlotte.
"It definitely affects how you race for the next four weeks," said Harvick. "We got the ultimatum yesterday of the explanation of how probation worked and how NASCAR expected us to race on the racetrack was put to us very clear yesterday. I think the way that the next four weeks go was basically dictated to us yesterday in the NASCAR trailer."
Contrary to Harvick, Kyle Busch feels NASCAR's policy is pretty clear-cut and he does not anticipate his probation period having much of an effect on his approach to racing over the coming weeks. He says the probation is more aimed at preventing further clashes between him and Harvick on the track and any off-track altercations like last week's dust up on pit road at Darlington.
"I understand it perfectly actually," said Busch about NASCAR's policy. "It's the 'boys have at it,' that happens out on the racetrack and it seems like they allow us to police ourselves pretty simply out there.
"When matters get taken into the drivers' hands or anything else onto pit road, where innocent bystanders can be injured or something, NASCAR is going to step in and they're going to intervene and they're going to set penalties the way that they feel need to be levied.
"To me, it's not a gray area, it's pretty simple – it's black and white. I'm not focused in all that really or what penalties should be during what circumstances because I'm a racer and I know that going out there on the racetrack and trying to win is the utmost thing. If you do that, then you certainly shouldn't be getting in any brawls or anything like that."
"I think the focus of probation is between the two of us – it's between the situation. If I was out there on the racetrack, say racing for fourth or fifth place or something like that, and I got loose and I got into Jimmie Johnson or somebody like that and I spun them out and wrecked them. That has no consequences to the probation."